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How can a dead external HD be recovered?


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#1 Arney X

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Posted 16 November 2011 - 11:41 PM

I'm running a Windows XP desktop (HP) with various storage & memory upgrades. I bought a Fantom Drive 250G external HD to back up the system. Backups went well, so I started using it for storage as well. I upgraded the internal storage to a 500G HD and bought a 500G external HD to do the subsequent backups, thereby deciding to use the 250G drive for storage. Sometime later I read that Fantom Drives are actually old HDs that have been refurbished & repacked as new external HDs.

When the drive started exhibiting the clicks of death, I saw the writing on the wall & started transferring the storage to the new external HD. 250G takes a while to transfer, so I figured I had to do it in a few sessions. No such luck. After the first transfer session the drive wouldn't connect again (powered on but could not make the connection). In an effort to debug it, I took off the enclosure and, sure enough, on the outside of the actual drive case was a label that said "reconstituted" or "refurbished." Since I have no experience repairing this hardware, I put everything back together & came here.

I've heard that dead drives can be recovered. Can I do it myself or do I need to take it to a specialized service, and will that cost me more than the data's worth? Also, what's a better method for archiving large folders of transient data? Is there a 100% reliable external HD that I could use? Thanks very much in advance for your help & advice.

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#2 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 12:26 AM

There is no such thing (or anything that approaches) a 100% reliable hard drive (external or otherwise). Data of any value at all should be kept on two separate hard drives, and data of greater importance should be kept on at least two (and preferably three or more) hard drives in at least two well-separated locations.

In order to attempt to recover the data on your problematic hard drive, the first thing to do is connect it directly to the motherboard of a working computer, using either an IDE ribbon cable or SATA cable as appropriate, as a secondary/slave hard drive. I take it from what you have written, that you would be able to do that rather easily and with confidence. When you have done that, try starting the computer. If the computer will start and load the Windows system normally, then see if the problematic hard drive is recognised in Windows, and whether or not you can access it to retrieve copies of your files.

Let us know what happens.
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#3 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 12:40 AM

Thanks, AustrAlien. I thought to do that, but had my doubts that it would be recognized due to the fact that it won't start up whether it's connected (via USB) or isolated. I'll try it since, yes, I've installed a secondary HD just recently on the empty ribbon port and should be able to do it again with this one. I'll let you know ASAP. Thanks again for the speedy response. Be back soon.

#4 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 12:49 AM

If the hard drive has an IDE connection, then try not to use "cable select". The best option, if available, is to jumper the hard drive as "master" and connect as "master" (cable-end connection) to the cable. If that option is not feasible, then jumper as slave and connect to the mid-cable connection. Either option is better than using "cable select" in an attempted recovery situation.
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#5 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:01 AM

Thanks for the advice, mate. I would've used cable select if you hadn't mentioned it. I'll jumper it to slave, since I don't want to jeapordize my main drive by altering it in any way, including its position, unless absolutely necessary. I'm just a bit sketchy on positions, though, since I'm used to simply using cable select and don't remember jumper positions off hand. I'll contact you again if I run into a question with the jumper.

#6 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:08 AM

Ah ... it sounds as though your Windows system is also on an IDE hard drive. I was thinking it more likely to be on a SATA hard drive ...

If there is something else attached to the same IDE ribbon cable, then you are going to have to use the same jumpering mode on both devices unfortunately. Use either cable select or master/slave on both hard drives on the one ribbon. That means you are going to have to check/change the jumper settings on the other device that is attached to the cable you are going to connect the problematic hard drive to.

You may wish to stick with cable select on both devices for the time being.

Edited by AustrAlien, 17 November 2011 - 01:09 AM.

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#7 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:14 AM

What's the danger or hesitation about using cable select for this operation?

#8 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 01:23 AM

There is no danger.

Perhaps I was being unnecessarily fussy at this very early stage of investigation. I mentioned it only as the "best" option ... the best of several options ... to be used. At the time, I was thinking that you would probably have a modern system using SATA connections for the existing hard drives etc, and that you were using an IDE cable in this instance only because the problematic hard drive was an old one with IDE connection.

Try it with cable select if that is most convenient option now, and other options are less convenient.

Edited by AustrAlien, 17 November 2011 - 01:24 AM.

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#9 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 10:00 PM

OK, back with what might be a major issue: you were close in your last post, but in reverse - my system is definitely NOT modern, but the External HD is. Translated, that means that my HP Pavilion 754n Windows XP desktop was considered "modern" when Pentium 4 came out, and is therefore IDE ribbon-based. The Fantom Drive is more recent, and is SATA-based. Instead of ripping out the guts of my PC to check for SATA cables, should I assume that it's too old to have resident SATA technology? If that is indeed the case, what's my next step?

#10 AustrAlien

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 10:46 PM

Looking at the HP Pavilion 745n specs and those of the motherboard ... there are no SATA connections available on that computer.

Do you have another Desktop PC that does have SATA connections? Are you able to connect the problematic hard drive to it, to see whether or not it is possible to retrieve copies of your data? I am trying to avoid the use of a USB connection here: Connection of a problematic hard drive via USB reduces the chances of success. Data recovery using a direct connection may be possible when it is not possible using a USB connection.

You asked: "do I need to take it to a specialized service, and will that cost me more than the data's worth?"
That option will cost you hundreds ... likely many hundreds ... of dollars.

Edited by AustrAlien, 17 November 2011 - 10:47 PM.

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#11 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 11:01 PM

Hope I didn't ruin the last afternoon of your week before the weekend with this new development. Thanks for your prompt attention.

Yes, I do have a newer desktop (Gateway DX 4822-01) that must be SATA-based, but I've yet to open it up, much less dismantle it. I'll get to it right now & let you know what I find regarding open bays & connectivity. Thanks again...talk soon.

#12 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 11:22 PM

What I found was a pair of SATA cables - one connected to the internal HDD, the other connected to the optical drive. There are a few open power interfaces, but no extra SATA cables. There's a 4-pin termination cable (female) free, but no additional SATA cables that I can see. Should I disconnect the cable from the optical drive?

#13 Arney X

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Posted 17 November 2011 - 11:48 PM

Further development: interface on external HD does not seem to be SATA. It's a 7-pin (S1 - S7) + 15-pin (P1 - P15) interface. I'm not familiar with this type of connection, but it doesn't seem compatible with the 7-pin SATA cable.

#14 AustrAlien

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:11 AM

Further development: interface on external HD does not seem to be SATA. It's a 7-pin (S1 - S7) + 15-pin (P1 - P15) interface. I'm not familiar with this type of connection, but it doesn't seem compatible with the 7-pin SATA cable.

7 + 15 sounds like a one-piece connector comprising both SATA data (7 pin) and power (15 pin). They are sometimes used.

The hard drive sounds like a normal SATA hard drive with the modern SATA data and power connectors (and not having the old style 4 pin molex power connector). I don't know what sort of power connectors are provided by your power supply and whether you have one that will match the 15 pin connector of the hard drive.

Yes, you should be able to disconnect the optical drive and use the cable(s) from that.
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#15 Arney X

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Posted 18 November 2011 - 03:20 AM

Yes, I agree; S(ATA)7 and P(ower)15 configurations make sense, but the 4-pin molex power connector is also resident on the drive. If you agree, I will use the 4-pin molex power connector & see if the 7-pin SATA configuration will be compatible with the SATA cable I disconnect from the optical drive. The 7 + 15 configuration seems to be designed for the external shell's power + connectivity configuration, which adapts to the external USB connection & 4-pin round plug power connection. I'll wait for your response before I proceed.




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